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Posts from the ‘compassion’ Category

An Unexpected Encounter.

I haven’t written for some time.  Writing happens when writing happens.

Today I was walking through my neighborhood Randall’s to get a few items.  I meandered through the aisles with my short list on repeat in my head so that I would not forget.  All of sudden, my eyes fell upon a lady.  She appeared to be in her late 50’s, though truly I don’t know.  More than just the eyes, my whole body was moved by her appearance; a nervous fluttering, and breathing that spontaneously felt heavy.  I walked past her calmly, though my body experienced the opposite.

The following description may be too graphic for some, though I will share it because it was what I saw. 

She had two black and blue eyes, a nose that was swollen and crusted with a significant amount of visible blood.  Her demeanor appeared fragile, though that might have been my own projection.  She was on the phone as I saw her.

I headed to the check out, though my heart felt as if it had stopped in the aisle with the lady.  My heart felt uncomfortably concerned.  Even while I was paying for my groceries, I kept glancing back to where I saw the lady.  Was she still there?  Should I just leave and go on about my evening?  Should I go back and ask her if she is ok or if she needed anything?  Would she tell me even if she needed help?  What would I do if she said yes?

As I grabbed my grocery bag, I turned my head back one more time.  She was still there on the phone.  My legs started walking toward her even while my head continued with its questions.  As I got closer, she was no longer on her phone.

I stood in front of her and looked gently into her eyes.  I asked, “Excuse me, I hope it is ok for me to ask this, are you ok?  Is there anything you need?”.  She looked at me and very quickly said, “Oh thank you, I am ok.  I just fell.  I broke my ribs”.  I had no idea of broken ribs from the surface of her appearance.  “I am just coming from the doctor’s office and he fixed my nose”.  There was a brief pause.  I said, “Ok, I saw you and felt concerned. I wanted to check if you were ok or needed help of any kind”.  Our eyes still meeting, we smiled gently at one another.  I walked out of Randall’s to my car and back home to my family.

Perhaps what she said was true and perhaps it was not.  I wondered, “Would a doctor really let her leave their office without a bandage of some kind?”.  I guess I won’t know for sure.  My gut still felt concerned for her.  

I went back to the safety of my home and my family.  My hope is that this lady is safe and heals.  I will have to be ok with at least letting her know that I saw her and that I offered concern and care, even if for a moment.


***  I don’t know that I would have had the courage to walk back to this lady had I not taken SAFE’s advocate training this past year.  I am deeply thankful for those that do this important work daily.

Grief and Bravery

These past two months my family and I have been navigating death and loss, one that came very suddenly.  It was as if literally Life pulled the rug out from beneath our feet.  It continues to feel quite surreal.  Emotions have taken me everywhere, from numbness to sadness, anger to acceptance, love back to love.  The peaks and the valleys seem a little less drastic, but they continue to come and go … especially in the quiet moments. 

I invite them in.  Getting consumed by life’s routines almost feels as if it is betraying what should not be forgotten so soon.  Still my heart knows that it won’t ever be forgotten, even if the mind becomes occupied.


I have also remembered how experiencing loss allows my heart to open to our shared human grief.  One’s own pain expands the capacity to be with other people’s pain.  Rather than just a surface level acknowledgement, I am in awe of people who have and are navigating loss of all kinds … and the courage it takes to keep showing up in life, carrying on with one’s responsibilities, meanwhile the tenderness remains.  The bravery that I witness is humbling, and at least for now I am less tempted to fall prey to my assumptions of what people are or are not experiencing.  There is often so much more than what we see.


Perhaps the heart breaking is also the Heart opening, the field of Compassion becoming a little less obscured.



Retreating and Remembering

I am returning home from leading a weeklong retreat in Tulum, Mexico, and I am filled with gratitude, joy, compassion and inspiration.  I am not even sure I have all the words to describe the experience.  We had a diverse age group, ranging from the 30’s to approaching 70.  There were a few folks who knew one other participant, and most who didn’t know anyone. They traveled from as far as Paris, France to embark on an adventure within themselves.  I was inspired by the courage that it must have taken to show up in this way.

I am so grateful for my teaching partner, Karlie Lemos, with whom I had not before taught.  Serendipity led me to her, and intuition led much of what and how we shared throughout the week.  Together we held a space of no agenda and non-judgement.  We offered practices daily, but none of it was imposed or required.  We asked that each individual honored what would serve them most.  There were generous spaces between offerings for time alone, connecting with others, frolicking in the water and the sand, and connecting with nature.  There was song and dance, tears and joy, quiet and conversation.

I had the great honor of witnessing the unfolding of this beautiful circle of human beings over the course of the week.  As I sat this morning back home in Austin, I was filled with emotion, my body almost too small to contain it.

This week I remembered that we all have stories, and that what we see on the surface conveys so little of the depths within.  I remembered that we all want to belong.  We want to feel seen, heard and held, just as we are.  And beneath the stories and the heartaches, there is something radiant, beautiful and limitless.  It has always been there.  It is ancient as the stars.  Only we need safe spaces, unstructured time and community to remember.  I hope that this week served in this way, a time for meeting our humanity and for planting the seeds of remembering our True, whole and unbroken nature.  As we transition back into this dance of life, as much as we will forget and stray, I trust that we will remember and return home.  Often.

We are all just walking each other Home.  Ram Dass


Today during dinner, we found ourselves discussing evolution and biology, as these are topics that my 7th grade daughter will be exploring over the next few weeks at school.  Herb asked us to guess how much of our human DNA matches up with that of a mouse and a chimpanzee.  While I knew that our DNA was very close to that of a chimp, I was surprised to hear that almost 85% of our DNA blueprint matches that of a mouse.  Really, 85%!  Chimps brings us to a close 96%.

With this degree of similarity, it almost feels silly how as humans we spend so much of our time and energy on the perceived differences between people, rather than on the overwhelming parallels.  Through my own meditation practice, I have seen how the differences and the distance that I sometimes feel with others, are nothing more than stories or beliefs that I have taken to be true.  Often, they are far from it.

This past New Year’s Eve, my family and I distributed food to the homeless on the streets of Austin.  We each made an intention to make eye contact, to acknowledge, to offer words and to offer food. Though the vulnerability of outer appearances were difficult to take in, upon looking at an individual in the eyes, I could only see the essence of a spirit very much like my own.  Yet our life circumstances were worlds apart.  It evoked a depth of compassion and connection that broke my heart open in a humbling way.

Thomas Merton, a theologian and a mystic, eloquently describes much of what I experienced.

“Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one of us is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. Their would be no more war, no more hatred, nor more cruelty, no more greed. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”

I hope that this new year I will remember to go slow, to connect and bow often to the humanity and mystery within and around me.

Hearts Open.

I am writing this with permission from my husband today, as it is his story not mine.  It impacted me and so I offer it to you.

As we sat for dinner yesterday, Herb said he wanted to share an experience from his day.  As he was leaving work to come home, he came upon a bird that seemed to be injured.  Catching his attention while in route to his car, he paused to consider if or how he could help.  He sensed that the bird was likely in pain.  His mind quickly ran through options and questions.  Should I pick him up to place him elsewhere or perhaps take him to the vet?  Or would picking him up actually inflict more pain?  And looking at the time, should I really get home to my girls and family?  He chose the latter, but on his drive home he was reminded of an experience from his childhood.  

Quite similarly, one day he came across a bird that was injured.  At an age where inhibitions were low, without forethought, he immediately picked the bird up and brought it home.  He created a place of rest out of a cardboard box and then asked his mom to make oatmeal, which he would later attempt to feed the bird.  As he shared this, his eyes became pensive and soft.  He reflected and wondered, had he in some way separated from that heartfelt spirit that once came so easily as a young boy.  

As children we are more tied to our hearts and closer to spirit than we are as adults.  I don’t say this to make myself or anyone feel bad, only to acknowledge the truth of our human experience.  In hearing Herb’s story and his reflection, what spoke to me was that despite the choices he made at different times in his life, his heart, in fact, was still open and quite tender.  Even with a routine that is quite full and long, he had the space to recognize and witness the experience, and in this case the suffering, of another sentient being.  Perhaps, there are moments where we more readily follow the heart’s call and other times where the heart’s calling cooperates with the realities of life. Regardless, having the space and willingness to be touched by those around us, all living breathing beings, allows our hearts to remain soft and open, and the tenderness carries forward.  It inevitably benefits the way we meet ourselves and the world.  

Herb’s experience reminded me to continue to keep the pace of my days slow enough so that I can savor and experience all of life, around and within, more fully.

Thank you Herb for sharing your story and your heart.

We don’t set out to save the world; we set to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.

Pema Chodron